Dear Hilde! Thanks to you, we have another great opportunity at Root Foundation now. Over the period of the past several weeks, you have been offering Belly Dance lessons for the girls as a new part of the Umwali Program on Monday. What were your first impressions when you worked with the children?
Working with the girls on the first day was amazing because I felt that we really connected through dance. I don't speak Kinyarwanda and most of the girls don't speak English, but through movement we can find a common language. I mostly enjoyed their smiling faces and their willingness to learn. They all contributed with their positive attitude and energy. On top of that, they were disciplined and super well behaved which really stood out because I work with a lot of kids and the time I usually spend trying to create some order has not been necessary at Root Foundation, meaning there is more time to enjoy and Dance!
What makes Belly Dancing so special in your opinion and where has this passion been rooted in your past?
Belly Dance to me is my true love. I've been belly dancing since 1999 and have loved the journey from the start. I love how it celebrates culture and tradition, yet allows room for innovation and interpretation, and I love how it celebrates the body. Even though belly dance is not a dance style just for girls, often people associate its movements with femininity. It is a celebration of the body and throughout all the years I taught this dance, women worldwide have told me how they feel more confident in their bodies ever since they started learning this beautiful artform. I am passionate about this dance for those reasons: self-love and improved body image as well as celebration of different cultures.
How has the contact between you and Root Foundation actually developed and why did you want to support our Organisation?
I first met Patrick and Cheez at Root House, where I was rehearsing with my talented friend Deo Munyakazi, who is a master Inanga player (traditional Rwandan string instrument). They loved my interpretation of the music, and we stayed in contact. I was talking to Patrick at some point about wanting to move to Rwanda and that I'm looking for a group of girls that I can train up to become belly dancers. He suggested the girls at Root Foundation as part of the Umwali program. I taught a trial session in January 2018, and I knew I had found the organisation that I was looking for. Not only does Root Foundation offer a platform for me to develop some of my ideas, the vision behind Root Foundation resonated deeply with me, so I was super excited to start working with the kids. I know that dance is one of the best therapies in the world, as it is one of the few things that combines exercise with art, so I know it would be of great benefit to the children in their personal development.
What are your future goals with the Belly Dance Group and what would you like the girls to learn from this acitivity?
I've been teaching the kids for about 5 weeks now. First of all, my ambitions are really to teach them some technical skills. Belly dance is not an easy dance form, so it will take time for the children to master some of the movements, yet they are progressing fast. I'm also working closely with Amouri, who is the drummer and traditional dance teacher at Root Foundation. We are creating rhythms embedded in Rwandan traditions, so that we can find a relationship between my work and his. Since most of the children in my class also take his lessons, I wanted to find a mutual ground that the children can relate to. So, I'm using the traditional dance structure as a template to structure the belly dance choreographies. We are currently also working with a core group, a group of four girls that are slightly older (15-17 years) so that I can work more intensively with them to create more complex choreographies. Every Saturday we are showing what we learnt during the week in the Root Foundation talent show. This is an excellent platform for the children to build confidence and work on their performative skills, and can be a great starting point to do performances outside of Root Foundation, which is something that is definitely in the back of my head. It's early days but I have big ideas in mind.